Vet’s Voice by Dr. Dave Barz: Mycoplasm: Be wary of this tiny bacteria
September 1, 2015
I did a little traveling over the weekend. We attended a wedding in Iowa. It is great to be back in South Dakota and the crops and grass here look as good as anything I saw along the way. Most of us have had ample and timely rains providing us with plenty of grass and winter feed.
Dakotafest was great even though we lost one day due to storms. I don't think it hurt the total attendance much but the poor barrel clown of the bull riding couldn't get his barrel to the center of the arena. I felt bad for the mutton busters. The mud was so deep and sticky it pulled their boots off as they left the arena, to say nothing about the mud the clowns picked from the inside of the helmets after they had done a face plant on their dismount. I really enjoy meeting you all and reliving the good times as you have an apple. Great to see you all and thanks for sharing some time with us.
This summer we are seeing a lot of Mycoplasm infections. Most of the samples we have sent to the diagnostic lab this summer for pneumonia have yielded Mycoplasm. We are also treating a lot of calves with swollen joints. In the past we believed Myco was the cause of the occasional droopy, draining ear on a single calf. Now we isolate cultures from the lungs, nasal passages, joints, mammary tissue, eyes, urogenital organs, as well as the ears.
Mycoplasm is a small single celled bacteria It is the smallest self-replicating bacteria. Mycoplasm has no cell wall and no distinct nucleus. This allows it to alter its shape to optimize its efficiency. This trait also makes the organism difficult to treat. Antibiotics generally act on the cellular wall to eliminate infections. With no cell all antibiotics are generally deemed ineffective on Mycoplasm.
Mycoplasm is parasitic. That means it relies solely on its host for nutrition. It attaches to the host animals cells and absorbs energy and nutrients. It can survive for long periods of time in mucus from animals' excretions. That makes fences, feed bunks, and waterers primary sources of infection. It lives within the animal as a chronic infection and then becomes clinical after stress. This may be environmental (heat, dust, storms) or weaning and transportation. It is usually diagnosed in combination with other diseases commonly associated with bovine respiratory disease.
Prevention is the best management strategy. Keep pens separate and try to clean entire groups. Never mix leftover and poor doers from one pen with another pen (all in all out). Vaccines have shown limited success. There are both commercial and autogenous products available. The immunity from these products is short and booster doses are required at 60-90 day intervals. With no cell wall the organism also changes (mutates) rapidly and typing is required. Long acting antibiotics are used in treatment, but probably are more effective in holding down other organisms and keeping the animal healthy and more efficient.
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Mycoplasm is an emerging problem in the herds of South Dakota. Consult with your nutritionalist, veterinarian or extension specialist and formulate a prevention program for your specific herd. Keeping this chronic parasitic organism under control will improve the efficiency of your herd or feedlot and thereby increase your profitability.